“It is such a privilege for us to be here, to try to offer peace and community, instead of military aid and destruction….”
Sister Phyllis O’Toole, writing from El Salvador in 1988.
In her youth, Sister Phyllis O’Toole, a sports fan, tried out for the Fort Wayne Daisies, an Indiana-based team in the U.S. women’s baseball league! After hearing a Maryknoll missioner speak at her high school, St.Joseph’s Academy in St. Paul, MN, she found something she liked even better. She entered Maryknoll Sisters in 1956, two years after graduation from St. Joseph’s.
Born in St. Paul, where she also attended St. Catherine’s College (now St. Catherine’s University) prior to entering Maryknoll, Sister Phyllis now finds great joy in serving meals to the homeless and other needy people at the Catholic Worker soup kitchen in Los Angeles, as well as assisting in various other ways at Maryknoll Sisters Convent in Monrovia, CA.
Prior to arriving in Monrovia in 2010, Sister Phyllis accompanied the poor, animated Basic Christian Communities and taught in Bolivia, Nicaragua and El Salvador,and did pastoral ministry in Cambodia and Thailand. She even spent two years as a member of the Maryknoll Sisters Cloister.
Each experience, including one which also involved caring for her mother in St. Paul for 16 years, led her to deepen her relationship with God and find unique ways to make God’s love visible wherever she was.
Even while caring for her mother, she served as Director of Religious Education in two local parishes and earn two masters degrees, one in social work and another catechetics and pastoral ministry. Her solidarity with Central America at that time was deeply appreciated by her Maryknoll Sisters there.
Sister Phyllis spent 10 years in Thailand, serving in pastoral ministry and at the Santi Wana (“Peaceful Forest”) Ashram, a center of reflection and contemplation on the outskirts of Bangkok, the Santi Wana (peaceful forest) Ashram. There, she and another member of the Maryknoll Sisters Contemplative Community, along with a Jesuit priest and a Thai couple who served as caretakers, lived a contemplative prayer presence in an ecological spirituality project for sustainable living.
Sister Phyllis also spent four years giving church appeals in the United States aimed at garnering support for Maryknoll Sisters missions around the world.